Pity the poor pop singer. There seems no place for them in our lives (we're talking the Mark Lindsays and Paul McCartneys)—or at the very least on the radio. Four decades or so ago, Brett Harris might have had a bright future ahead of him. Nowadays, one just shrugs and wonders how he would reach the audience most amenable to his classic pop-rock: those over-30 music lovers that don't go to clubs much anymore or get their musical tips from Pitchfork.
Make no mistake: Brett Harris is a terrific talent. His tenor's strong, crisp and sure as his melodic sensibility—not the nasally whine and jangly three-chord strum that's passed itself off as indie pop the last decade. The music's full of classic pop figures—handclaps, ahh-ing backing vocals, bouncy keyboards and swinging horns, strings and piano flourishes, dreamy downtempo balladry—and the songs open up generously like a sunny day on a grassy hill overlooking a harbor. It's so pretty and alluring it's enveloping. If you like early British Invasion rock, you'll love this album. It builds quickly, with its best songs hitting between tracks three and six—"Mansfield," "Drop the Needle" and "So Easy."
The last half dozen tracks aren't as immediately winning. It's a bit unfocused, as Harris explores a variety of directions including '70s-tinged blue-eyed soul ("Perpetual Motion"), slow-grooving, late-night pop balladry ("See The Light"), and banjo-abetted West Cost folk with a little rag swing ("Wish"). Though the second half is something of a hodge-podge, it closes strongly with the splendid jazzy-pop love song, "Man of Few Words," and hip-swinging torch-blues piano ballad "Over and Over."
Harris is a pop craftsman at a time when lots of our music sounds like it came from the Unfinished Furniture Warehouse. Yet those with some discernment and a good ear may discover in this album something they'll keep around for a lifetime.
Brett Harris releases Man of Few Words at Nightlight Friday, April 2. Luego and Bright Young Things open at 10 p.m.